Hernan Crespo on why he took Al Ain job, Ancelotti's influence and his message to fans

Argentine gives his first interview since taking over at reigning Adnoc Pro League champions

The new Al Ain manager Hernan Crespo. Photo: Al Ain FC
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Hernan Crespo was last week appointed manager of record UAE champions Al Ain, replacing departing Dutchman Alfred Schreuder in the dugout.

Crespo, a former Argentine international who after starting his career with River Plate represented a host of leading European clubs including Parma, Lazio, Inter Milan and Chelsea, has also managed in Italy, Argentina and Brazil.

His most recent role was with Al Duhail in Qatar, in which last season Crespo, 48, guided his team to a domestic treble before parting company with the club last month.

In his first interview as Al Ain manager, Crespo spoke to the club’s official channels about his decision to join the Adnoc Pro League side.

Choosing Al Ain over other offers

“Of course, this is our role as a technical staff. Usually when any club makes us an offer to train, it is our responsibility to work on analysing the squad. Compared to the other offers we received, I was surprised that the current list of players at the club is of high quality and can be improved more, so that we can achieve the goals we set.”

Relishing the new challenge

“Embarking on a new experience is always an important challenge for me. Over the course of my career, I have had to adapt to different cultures, whether I am a player or a coach, and I will do my best to adapt to circumstances as quickly as possible.

"The players’ willingness to adapt to circumstances has been wonderful, and I think I will not face any challenges in adapting quickly.

“Some may see the impact of this change on the club as a kind of surprise, but it is a priority for any team aspiring to achieve its goals, right? I love the challenge and I am used to the pressures.

“It is my passion and love that has been motivating, encouraging and attracting me to work over the past few years, as I worked between different countries and cultures to work on successful projects.

"This pursuit is linked to both the responsibility and commitment to work within the scope of a giant and ambitious project such as Al Ain’s project. I am very happy to be part of this giant project.”

Objectives with Al Ain

“Throughout [my coaching] journey, I have always sought highly competitive and challenging projects. Of course, the essence is that we all strive to win championships and titles, but the essential point is to compete until the end.

“I am well aware that promises in the world of football alone are not enough because fulfilling them requires commitment, giving and doubling effort, and all the foundations are fully set up at Al Ain to achieve the goals. We will work to be confident and in good faith to make the fans happy.”

Previous knowledge of Al Ain

“I’ve had the opportunity before to work with the Fifa Club World Cup in the UAE in 2018 when I came to present the trophy in Abu Dhabi. Such a visit left a great impression on me, especially since Al Ain’s performance in that tournament was impressive and wonderful [they finished runners-up to Real Madrid].

“From then, I found myself close to the club and after that, other things happened as I looked at the club’s facilities, which have developed tremendously since 2018. So it was not surprising for me to realise the full real value of this club.”

“Al Ain’s facilities are world class, comparable to European clubs. I truly feel grateful and appreciated for the opportunity to contribute to the development of the team, because belonging to this club is a great honour.”

Preferred style of football

“Personally, I adore Carlo Ancelotti, who means so much to me. He trained me when I came to Europe for the first time [with Parma], and I had the opportunity again when he was the coach of AC Milan. So, I believe in the method he follows, the style he guides his team, and I am experienced with it.

“But, of course, I admire many coaches, and naturally try to have my own style and independent identity. Ultimately, we are not all the same, and everyone has their own leadership style and beliefs about the best method to manage the team technically, which is the most important thing for me.”

Message to his Al Ain players

“For me, the primary priority is the group and the word ‘we’ as a team and as a family. All my choices and assessments are centered around the group and the word ‘we’. Of course, anyone who thinks individually will find that I am persuading them to think for the good of the team as a whole.

“That’s the crux of the matter, and if we need to establish a winning mentality, we’re going to need everyone in the club. This is the point that everyone needs to understand, as some players will have more participation than others. But the key is always to be professional and always show respect in your work. I set some clear rules that are aimed at the good of the team.”

Message to Al Ain fans

“I think that engaging in a season that has already begun is not easy [Al Ain sit third in the league, two points off the top after seven rounds], but we will strive to do our best, and give the team a distinctive identity. And we will make mistakes, which is the nature of football.

“At that time, we need the fans’ support. Our goal is to make the fans happy so that they can finally take wonderful souvenir photos with trophies. That’s the ultimate goal.

"But we need all the elements to come together because we want to have the spirit of an integrated family consisting of several elements, such as the fans, the technical staff, the players, the administration, and the whole city. Thus, we are in great need of the loyal Al Ain fans.”

Updated: November 22, 2023, 4:49 AM